Out of Order: Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient near East

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Out of Order: Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East. By Donald J. Wold. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998, 238 pp., $19.99.

The purpose of Out of Order is to provide the reader with a careful exegetical study of the relevant Biblical and extra-Biblical passages that address in some way issues related to homosexuality. This work is very focused, and from the very beginning Wold states that other concerns-such as the history of Christian views on the topic, medical debates and challenges (AIDS, the hypothalamus gland), and the public responsibility of the Christian Church-lie outside the purview of this book (p. 9).

The title communicates very well the general thesis of the author. Wold argues that homosexual conduct violates the original divine order of creation for men and women (Genesis 1-2). He endeavors to demonstrate that the rejection of same-sex relationships is constant in both testaments, as is the severity of punishment that is decreed for those who pursue such activity. The Bible, he says, regards homosexuality as a deliberate act against God's standards and knows nothing of it as simply an inescapable sexual orientation. At the same time, he stresses that the Bible also speaks of the grace of God for those in the throes of this sin: forgiveness was to be found on the Day of Atonement in ancient Israel (Lev 16:29-34) and today is grounded in the cross of Christ (1 Cor 6:11).

Out of Order is divided into three parts. Part 1 (chaps. 2-3) examines the ancient Near Eastern material; Part 2 (chaps. 4-10) turns to the OT narratives and laws; Part 3 (chaps. 11-13) presents the views found within the NT. Throughout, Wold interacts with those holding the contrary opinion that the Bible does not in fact condemn loving homosexual relationships. His primary interlocutor is John Boswell, whose Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (University of Chicago Press, 1980) has been a foundational piece for all of this persuasion.

This book exhibits several strengths. First, in his analysis of important terminology and in the study of key passages in the OT (Gen 9:18-27, 19:1-11; Judg 19:22-30; Ezek 16:48-49; Lev 18:22, 20:13) and NT (Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:8-11), the author utilizes the original languages. Such attention to textual details is crucial for those seeking to acquire a more precise grasp of the canon's perspective on same-sex relationships. …